Dear Dr. B,

Every year during the Christmas holidays, I’m left feeling like I don’t measure up. When I look at what others have, do, and give, there is no way I can compete with that. It leaves me feeling less than others and depressed as a result. There is no way to ignore Christmas, so what can I do?

Sincerely, Challenged in Giving


Dear Challenged,

I’m sure you aren’t alone in your perspective. Each year many go into debt over the holidays because of over-spending, trying to keep up with the Jones’s, or at least trying to keep up with expectations.

While the holidays are thought of as a time of good will towards men, the holiday commercialism often perpetuates a focus on ourselves. This is a fast track to the blues.

Commercials foster a “me-mentality” as they encourage us to make lists of all those items we want. Ads beckon our attention to those things we supposedly cannot live without to be successful or feel complete as a person.

Advertisements also cater to that part of our esteem fed by the reactions of others in response to the gifts we give, beckoning us to frequent their stores for the perfect gift to give to display of our love this season. Holiday commercialism fuels pressure-filled giving rather than giving from the heart.

The scriptures give us a different perspective about giving: “Each one of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give. You should not give if it makes you unhappy or if you feel forced to give. God loves those who are happy to give” (2 Corinthians 9:7 ERV).

God’s Word invites us to give of our own volition, not out of expectation or coercion, but because it brings us happiness and we want to show our love.

The holidays may find you with few financial resources available with which to purchase gifts. Don’t discount the value of the precious gift of time, companionship, an act of service, a gentle touch, or an encouraging word.

Sometimes the most appreciated gifts are not those that cost a lot of money, but those that can only be experienced within the heart. So this year, if you are feeling down during the holidays, perhaps because of financial setbacks or unfortunate circumstances, be gentle and extend grace to yourself. Release yourself from the tyranny of commercialism’s message, and seek instead to discover who you can bless by your words, your time, and your presence. You will likely find yourself encouraged as well.

Hope Prevails!

Dr. Michelle Bengtson


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